‘Be positive’. It’s a modern mantra which promises the secret of living a life of happiness. But perhaps it’s time to drop this fashionable rhetoric. Here are five reasons why:
- Life is not an emotionally binary experience
Humans are sentient complex creatures. We do not experience the world in binary terms as suggested by the words ‘positive’ and ‘negative’. They are extremely limiting words that overly simplify the way we experience the world. Why limit yourself by labeling your entire existence as either ‘good’ or ‘bad’?
2. The definition is unclear and subjective
I’ve never understood what is meant by the word ‘positive’. Are we asking people to be ‘content’, ‘like it and lump it’, ‘see the good in a bad situation’ or to pretend to be ‘happy’ when they’re not? The Cambridge Dictionary defines it as ‘feeling happy about your life and your future’. Greater clarity is required.
3. It is unsustainable and unnatural to be happy all of the time
As mentioned above, ‘positive’ is frequently used as a synonym for being ‘happy’. For me, ‘happiness’ is a fleeting emotion. For example, if I read that a missing pet had been reunited with its owner I might experience happiness. It is a temporary emotion incurred by experiencing something important to me. It doesn’t accumulate like compound interest in a snow-ball effect ten years later. It is a currency spent there and then. The rest of the time, I’m not necessarily sad or unhappy either – just not jumping for joy in ecstasy for no fathomable reason every waking moment.
4. This is not always a helpful way to view the world
It is healthy, normal and helpful to be pessimistic. Without it, there would be no contingency plans. Nothing vital would be addressed if we went around being ‘positive’ all of the time expecting the best possible outcome. A glass might be ‘half-full’ but it’s not very useful to consider the ice caps as half-tall rather than half defrosted by global warming.
5. It’s ok to not be ok
As a first class pessimist, it’s an inextricable part of my character. It motivates my reading, writing and creativity. It keeps my mind curious. It drives me on to improve myself and the world around me by acknowledging imperfection. I find it narrow-minded that these features would be criticised as incorrect or ‘negative’ simply because it doesn’t adhere to the values of ‘positive’ ideology.
Next time somebody tells you to ‘cheer up’ or to stop being ‘negative’ because it ‘might not happen’, perhaps you should ask them to be positive about your negativity.
Are there any commonly-used words that you think should be reduced in everyday vernacular?